The MLB Regular Season is complete, and we are starting to determine the playoff matchups from the Wild Card games. With the completion of the Yankees/Red Sox and Cardinals/Dodgers wild card game wrapped up, Boston and Los Angeles both moving on to their respective divisional series, we will look at the biggest storylines going into the Divisional Series and my predictions for the playoffs.
Can Tampa Bay pull off the triple crown?
All roads to the World Series lead through Tampa Bay, as the Rays finished with the best record in the American League. Tampa Bay has a chance to complete the triple crown of championships, meaning all three of their major sports teams win their respective titles in a calendar year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV back in February and the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in July. That leaves just the Tampa Bay Rays to complete the crown. Coming off of a world series appearance last season, they lean heavily on their pitching staff in order to make a deep run in the playoffs. They are matched up with a familiar foe in Boston, where they won the season series 11-8 and had a +2 run differential.
Can the Dodgers repeat?
It’s hard to imagine that the Dodgers aren’t the favorite to win the World Series given their unbelievable depth across the board. 1-9 can get it done at the plate, and they have some great talent off the bench as well. They boast a five man rotation of Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Clayton Kershaw. It’s hard to imagine Clayton Kershaw being anything but an ace given his history, and knowing a healthy Kershaw is dangerous is a scary thing. The only thing holding back the Dodgers is Dave Roberts’ tendency to micromanage his roster and follow analytics too closely. But if this team gets hot, nobody’s stopping them
Are the Giants for real?
Yes, they had the best record in baseball. Yes, their pitching has been far and away better than anybody could expect. But they also have a record below .500 against remaining teams in the NL playoffs. So one has to ask are they actually good, or did they just do what they were supposed to do against bad teams. They combined to go 32-6 against the two worst teams in the division, as they should. They did most of their damage against weaker teams, and held records hovering around .500 against. They went 7 games over .500 against teams with winning records, mostly carried by a 6-1 record vs Cincinnati. For a team that won 107 games, they still have something to prove to me. If they beat the Dodgers in the NLDS, that’s a huge statement.
Are the Red Sox the team best built for October?
Some may disagree, but I really love the makeup of this Boston team with regards to a playoff run. I think they have the perfect balance of youth, experience, pitching, and hitting. They have young stars on the field like Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, balanced by veterans like Kyle Schwarber and JD Martinez. For every Garrett Whitlock or Nick Pivetta, there’s a Chris Sale or a Nathan Eovaldi. They have an amazing combination of youthful ignorance of knowing they can win any game, and clubhouse leadership that knows what it takes to win games. Not to mention Alex Cora is one of those managers that just finds a way to win games. They go up against division rivals in Tampa Bay, which I think will be the most fun of the 4 first round matchups. If they stay as disciplined throughout that series as they did against Yankee pitching in Tuesday night, there isn’t much stopping this team from succeeding.
Division Series Predictions:
Braves defeat Brewers 3-2
Dodgers defeat Giants 3-1
White Sox defeat Astros 3-2
Red Sox defeat Rays 3-2
Championship Series Predictions:
Dodgers defeat Braves 4-1
NLCS MVP: Justin Turner
White Sox defeat Red Sox 4-2
ALCS MVP: Lance Lynn
World Series Prediction:
Dodgers defeat White Sox 4-2
WS MVP: Trea Turner
Yeah, I have the Dodgers repeating, and it’s a boring pick. But I think if they get past the Giants, they walk through to the World Series, while whoever comes out of the AL will have a hard fought series. They had the second best record in baseball all year. Their downfall could be their bullpen, but I think they are too strong up front and will overpower teams if they stay disciplined.